You don't have to eat boiled turnips
Regional variety Fresh, local and seasonal food is better for you, reduces the environmental impact of transport and is good for the local economy. Buying straight from the farmer can do you, your family, the farmer and the planet a world of good.
Farmers markets A survey of British farmers markets in the Southwest showed that equivalent products were 30 to 40 per cent cheaper than those in the local supermarkets. Best value were seasonal organic vegetables which were up to 50 per cent cheaper. Many goods, like local varieties of cheese, were not available in supermarkets at all.
Community-supported agriculture brings the consumer into direct contact with the producer. Consumers commit in advance to buying farm produce regularly. In the process they discover seasonality, freshness and the cost of food production. Some subscribers contribute farm labour in exchange for part of the harvest, and children are often welcome to visit the farm and find out where their food comes from.
Fair-trade brands guarantee a fair price for farmers in developing countries. To find fair-trade organizations in your country contact the International Federation for Alternative Trade (IFAT), 30 Murdock Road, Bicester, Oxon OX6 7RF, UK www.ifat.org
Organic food systems aim to avoid the use of artificial chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers. Buying organic is the only way to guarantee you won’t be eating genetically modified foods or food with antibiotics. It is better for soil quality and for wildlife. If the organic food you buy has been flown half-way round the world, however, it’s probably more eco-friendly to go for local, non-organic food.
Australia: The Organic Federation of Australia
Britain: Soil Association
North America: The Organic Consumers Association
Co-operatives started supermarkets as we know them today in 19th-century Britain. Independent local retailers were controlled by their consumer members, who sold food at prices working people could afford. The only supermarket that maintains the co-op tradition in Britain is the Co-op network, with a strong social-responsibility brief and fair-trade brands. Recently it put a penny on the price of milk to aid ailing British dairy farmers (see page 10). Its home-shopping website is www.co-op2u.com, www.co-op.co.uk/index has links to international food co-ops worldwide.
Contact your local environmental group to find other ideas for ethical food sourcing.
Grow your own
From urban gardens to allotments to school projects, growing your own is a fun option and a great way to teach children about health, the environment and food.
Australia: West Pacific urban agriculture network [email protected]
Britain: Since the Second World War everyone in Britain has been entitled to an allotment. Contact your local council.
North America: www.cityfarmer.org
For information on seed-saving visit www.primalseeds.org
Australia: Australian Gene Ethics Network (AGEN)
Britain: Compassion in World Farming (CIWF)
North America: Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
ETC Group (formerly RAFI)
Progressive farmers' unions
Via Campesina members include:
Confederation Paysanne, France. Send a solidarity message to José Bové, currently in jail for destroying GM rice in 1999 with visiting Indian farmers. www.confederationpaysanne.fr
National Farmer’s Union, Canada
Landless Movement of Brazil
Small and Family Farmers Alliance, Britain.
Read more about the campaign for food sovereignty at www.peoplesfoodsovereignty.org
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